‘The Strangers’ gets it right by goin’ old school.

The Strangers (2008)

These days, there seems to be two types of horror films in mainstream America. You’ve got the so-called “torture porn” films like Hostel and Saw. Or you’ve got remakes — either or foreign films like One Missed Call or Shutter*, or of classic horror films, like Prom Night (not that the original Prom Night could really be considered a classic, but you get my point, right?). They’re not always bad movies — though usually they are — but it’s really very seldom that one comes along that’s actually, um, scary. And they’re horror movies, right? Shouldn’t “scary” sort of be the whole endgame?

So when a movie like The Strangers comes along, it’s like a breath of creepy fresh air. I’m not going to say that The Strangers is the second coming of the American horror film or anything, but when a horror movie does so many things right, you can’t help but be giddy about its success (not financially, since the numbers have yet to come out; plus it’s competing against that other horror movie this weekend).

What makes The Strangers work so well is that it takes a decisive 70s approach to horror filmmaking. In particular, I’m thinking of the pre-Jason slashers like, of course, the king Michael Myers himself. A lot of the decisions that are made by the filmmakers in The Strangers seem to stem from a love of John Carpenter’s classic.

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Yes, I said “Killer robot cowboys.”

Westworld (1973)

So as I’m watching Westworld, I can’t help but think that this is the perfect kind of movie for a remake. I know, I know. A lot of you out there are so anti-remake that you scoff at the idea of ANY movie being remade. But in some cases, like Westworld, a film has a great premise, a good backbone of an idea, but the execution is less-than-great. When I think of remakes of movies like Halloween, or The Birds, I think “Why? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, by that same logic, if it is broke, why not spruce it up a bit?

And what a premise this movie has: In the future (presumably), there’s a theme park where everyone can live out their greatest fantasy. That is, if their fantasy involves ancient Romans, medieval adventure, or the Old West. Because a company named Delos has created three theme parks (cleverly titled RomanWorld, MedievalWorld and WestWorld, respectively) where their patrons can visit and live like in the olden times and interact with androids who act in character with their worlds.

Eventually, the smart guys running the place (we know they’re smart because they wear lab coats) realize that the androids are acting kind of funny and before you know it, we’ve got a full scale robot rebellion on our hands. Oh, did I mention that the main antagonist, a robot gunslinger, is played by Yul Brynner?

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Catching up with Dario.

Deep Red [aka Profundo Rosso] (1975)

So I finally saw Deep Red. I’ve counted myself among Dario Argento’s fans for years, ever since a friend turned me on to Suspiria and Opera and while I’ve seen those movies countless times, I’ve delved very little into the rest of Il Maestro’s filmography, with a few exceptions (I’ve seen Tenebrae several times and it remains one of my favorites of his; I’ve also had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing The Phantom of the Opera… the less said about that one, the better).

For a while, I’ve had several of Argento’s movies sitting on my shelf, unwatched. There’s his early giallo, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage; his first full-length American production, Trauma; and his George Romero collaboration, Two Evil Eyes. They all stare at me, begging me to watch them. But there was another sitting there that I’m ashamed to have never seen*, as it’s pretty much considered by most of Argento’s fans as one of his best. Hell, the DVD packaging even calls it “Argento’s Masterpiece!” They wouldn’t lie just to sell a product would they?

If you haven’t figured it out, the film in question is Deep Red. And today, since I had the day off work and little to do, I decided to delve into some Argento. I’ve read several reviews of his films over the last few days, since there’s a new DVD box set that was released today (cleverly titled 5 Films by Dario Argento), so I was itching to get into something of his that I’d never seen.

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Does ol’ George hit the mark with his ‘Diary?’

Diary of the Dead (2008)

Alright let’s get this out of the way: George Romero’s Diary of the Dead is nowhere near as good as Night. Or Dawn. Or even Day (which, unlike a lot of folks, I really like). It is, however, better than Land (which, unlike a lot of folks, I also really like). I had to get that out of the way because any real horror fan that watches Diary of the Dead is going to make comparisons to Romero’s other brain-munching films, even if they’re not trying to. I did it myself when the movie began, but I quickly got over that and just started judging it on its own merits.

And compared to most of the horror films that get theatrical releases, Diary of the Dead is a success. Plus, it’s got everything you’d expect from a Romero zombie flick: slow-lumbering zombies, awesome kills and, yep, that ol’ Romero social commentary. This time around, he’s got his sights set on the media, and the version of the “truth” that floods the airwaves every day. Basically, it’s George Romero vs. Fox News, with much brain destroying involved. (Not that the Fox News folks are big on brains. Zing!)

As you might have been able to figure out by reading the title of my site, I’m a big fan of all things zombie. Good, bad, whatever. If it’s zombie-oriented, I’m probably gonna see the movie and hope for the best. And with the successful remake of Dawn of the Dead, along with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (technically, not a zombie movie, I know, but work with me here), there was a resurgence in zombie movies that allowed Romero to continue his series, bringing the whole genre full circle. But really, nobody does it better than Uncle George, and he proves that with Diary.

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Joshua Hoffine’s photography will FREAK YOU OUT.

I wish I could remember where I found the link to photographer Joshua Hoffine’s website but since I don’t, I’ll go ahead and take credit for discovering this artist myself. In fact, he’s got me to thank for his entire career!

I’m a photography buff and a horror buff so kind of right up my alley.

Oddly, the creepiest picture in the bunch is one of the few without dead things / monsters. It’s one with a gawd dang clown in it. And you can’t even see the clown’s face. But you know it’s there. You always know they’re there. It’s a bit cliche to talk about clownphobia but I did once get smacked in the face with a rubber fish at a Ringling Brothers show, so I think I’ve got good reason to be weary around these weirdos.

*So much so that I majored in it in college but never finished. That says more about my commitment than to my love of the art. Passionate, but lazy. That’s me!

…and (re)introducing Zombie vs. Shark

Dear Loyal Readers,

Yes, both of you.

I know you’re wondering where everything went. Don’t worry. All of the content that was previously published on Zombie vs. Shark is in a better place now: the recycling bin (yes, we’re going eGreen).

To everyone else: Welcome to Zombie vs Shark! There was a previous incarnation of this site, but I killed it. It really needed to be put out of its misery. There were aspects of it that were becoming a chore and since I don’t get paid to write, I figure when I do write it should be fun, not work.

So I killed it. But like any good zombie, it’s come right back to life to haunt you. And eat your brains.

Enjoy the uprising.